In Focus: The Jamaican Influence

Jamaican music in the early nineteenth century was categorised as the ‘slave song’ – music about working and being displaced. This African work sound founded the Calypso style which was accompanied by the uptake of western instruments to draw in audiences. The key aspect of which was the series of Jamaican owners of sound systems, sound selectors (our equivalent to a DJ) and DJs (to rap over the tracks) that would provide cheap and easy entertainment of African drum beats and melodies that would travel far for dance parties on the beaches. The influence of which would provide world class changes that would become the basis of contemporary music and effects.

  • Ska (1940s/1950s) : A fast, happy and upbeat movement with a walking bass line, accented jazz rhythms that draws on the influence of Calypso.

  • Rock Steady (1960s) : The beat slowed down as poverty set in, and DJs began to rap over the top of the beat.

  • Reggae (1970s) : The beat slowed down even further.

  • Dance Hall (Late 1970s/1980s) : The Jamaican influence became paired with a disco beat influenced by dub.

Jamaica is a music hub, with a particular sound that evolved, became tighter and more intricate, and did not forget about its past. The techniques to come out of Jamaica that are evident in each of movements (above) – such as reverberation and echo – became effects in audio editing programs and guitar pedals, that were originally the result of rusted and over-repaired sound systems.

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